Travelling by air can be taxing, for both mind and body. Most people will experience pre-flight nerves at some point, and it’s not just fear of crashes or cabin fever. Nervousness can arise from worrying about how you’ll sleep, what you’ll eat, who you’ll end up sitting beside and how you’ll recover on the other side.
To make your plane journey more comfortable, here are a few tips for preparing for a flight and managing pre-flight nerves.
Watch what you eat
Around 24 hours before a flight, it’s a good idea to start preparing your body for time in the air. What you eat will play a huge role in how well you’ll manage during the flight and how you recover after landing. Some research suggests that fasting for 16 hours before a long flight could fend off jet lag. If this doesn’t appeal to you, try to fuel your body with wholefoods only, and that means lots of fruits and vegetables. Anything fresh and water-rich is recommended. Eating fibre is particularly important, before and during a flight. Foods to avoid include anything greasy or those that cause bloating and gas.
Humidity in the cabin is far lower (anything from 2 to –23 per cent) than what you’re used to on the ground (between 30 and 65 per cent). Since the air on a plane is drier, passengers should take measures to stay hydrated in order to keep sinuses moist, maintain a strong respiratory system and to reduce susceptibility to infection. This starts 24 hours before flying and should be maintained throughout the duration of the flight. Aim for the recommended eight glasses per day. It’s also best to avoid fizzy, sugary and alcoholic drinks, since at altitude, gases in the digestive system expand by a third and may lead to abdominal discomfort.
Pop a pill
Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) is characterised by a blood clot that forms in the veins of the leg. This condition can occur when blood flow is low. Anything that slows the flow of blood through the deep veins can cause DVT, especially sitting still for long periods on a flight. Complications include phlebitis, leg ulcers and pulmonary embolism (which can be fatal). Aviation Health, a US independent body researching aviation issues, suggests that a low-dose aspirin (100–150mg) taken the day before a flight, on the day and for two or three days following, can reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism by up to 60 per cent. Eating natural proteins found in fermented soybeans (which contain anti-thrombotic properties) and wearing compression socks to prevent blood pooling in the lower legs and feet, are also recommended.
Keep your hands clean
In 2002, a study conducted at the University of California found that on a single flight from San Francisco to Denver, one-fifth of the 1001 passengers reported cold symptoms within one week of arrival. Every surface you come in contact with has some amount of bacteria. Enclosed spaces, such as planes, are perfect breeding grounds for disease. Regular use of alcohol-based hand wipes and washing your hands are good ways to protect against diseases being transmitted through the eyes or nose via the fingertips.
Change how you sleep
If you’re preparing for eastward travel, research suggests one possible strategy for advancing circadian rhythms to reduce jet lag upon arrival at your destination. It has been suggested that using increased morning light exposure and doses of melatonin (the sleep-regulating hormone) is a great way to adjust sleeping patterns. In other words, wake up earlier. You can also try going to bed earlier the day before your flight, having a catnap on the plane, and sleeping for only 45 minutes maximum when you first arrive (if needed). Flying west? This requires that you rewind your circadian rhythm by staying up as late as possible on arrival.